Almost every thought that runs though my brain in the form of determining action chooses the path that is the easiest, most conflict free, and offers not the most reward, but the most peaceful outcome. For most of us our brains are wired this way from an early age; electricity travels down the path of least resistance, right? So why wouldn’t electrical signals from neurons? The problem for me is that in avoiding the difficult for fear of conflict or friction in my life I was unknowingly sacrificing my ability to hold myself accountable in exchange for what I thought was peace. And a life with loose accountability can get slippery quick.
What Obstacles are keeping me from my goals?
Why am I standing in my own way?
I journaled those questions last night after closing down my audible recording of “Cant Hurt Me” by David Goggins. A personal narrative of Navy seal, ultra marathon runner, and a missionary for the Mental Toughness mindset. After each chapter he gives a challenge, and it boiled down to those questions. So I got to thinking.
Full transparency here, I’m going to be copying straight from my journal so this may lean toward “stream of consciousness” but I wont ramble.
From a young age I learned that avoiding conflict is the best way to find “happiness”, or rather its mirage, peace. Dont rock the boat and you wont get made to work, picked on, or found out. They’ll leave you alone if you keep your head down. So I put on a complacent face and prop up crumbling internal framework. But the problem was that in keeping my head down I deliberately had to make choices to stay off the radar. I had to TRY to not succeed or fail. For me though that came naturally. My mom used to say that, “if you put half as much effort into your chores as the effort you spend to avoid them you’d have been done hours ago.” My problem that began to blossom was that to maintain self-pride I had to take pride in my ability to avoid work.
I was thrilled one time when I successfully hid under my bed all day to avoid work as a kid (my mom almost called the police, but I did not do chores). I couldnt see as a kid that in placing a higher value on avoiding hard things, I was wiring my brain to do that later in life. It was a small derailment then- hide under the bed all day and read Harry Potter to avoid cleaning my room- but it led to a slippery self-standard, and a skewed sense of personal accountability as I grew. In my 30’s I’m finally taking a look in the mirror. Truthfully, my ability to hold myself accountable to difficult things has been very low.
My accountability deficit has lead me to make choices that I regret. In my life in order to seek the easiest way to peace I have lied, cheated, self-obsessed, gaslighted, experienced anger management problems, avoidance issues, procrastinated, and so many other things. Of course, all this behavior only lead to more anxiety because I couldnt lie to myself. I often was scared of losing grip of my mask. It feels like being pantsed in front of a group of your piers while you give a presentation (speaking from experience). Without a strong sense of accountability, I often sought to cure that anxiety with alcohol, drug use, pornography, cigarettes, over eating, escapism, and all the while presenting myself to the world as A-OK!
But I’m not. I am human.
However there is good news. I am better than I have ever been, and I am far from my worst. My behavior patterns for years have set me on an average course in life, but I am becoming aware of them and seeing my behavior for what it is- fear. Discovery that I had weak personal accountability is a huge step for me in the race I am running against myself. Past Will didnt know that shit. Past Will was a broken person that wanted to avoid conflict so badly I wouldnt even left MYSELF see my bad side- because that meant self conflict. I shoved all the problems under the rug because I didnt have the capacity to deal with difficulties. Not any more. I see how much I have stood in my own way over the hears by not holding myself to a higher personal standard, and can see how that has limited my growth.